The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one, but that is best of all. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we think of Mallorca and its animal inhabitants, it’s mostly the impressive sea life or native ‘geckos’ we are drawn to, but as springtime approaches, hedgehogs are likely to crop up all across the island. Here at Affordable Mallorca we feel it’s important to know how to help our fabulous wildlife, and this guide will show you the way when it comes to these shuffling, prickly garden dwellers.
Where Do They Live? #
Hedgehogs are Old World dwellers, inhabiting Europe, Africa and parts of Asia but not America and Australia although they were introduced into New Zealand in the 19th century. They are most likely to be found in grassy woodland areas or open fields. As strictly nocturnal animals, hedgehogs should only be spotted after sunset, and usually during the middle of the night, so if you happen to find one venturing out of hiding during daytime is almost certainly is in need of help (more on that later).
A Bit of Hedgehog Lore #
There are many strange things people used to believe were true about hedgehogs, attributing the weirdest behaviours or even supernatural abilities to these animals. One of the most widespread of these myths is that hedgehogs sucked milk from cows which is, of course, utter nonsense as firstly they can hardly reach up to the udder, and secondly, they have lactose-intolerance and milk would make them very sick.
In medieval times, there also was a wide-spread belief that a hedgehog’s spines served to carry fruit to the animal’s lair, but as they usually have their spines flattened when walking along this would be more than cumbersome. A less abstruse theory is that hedgehogs are immune to snake bites, but it isn’t true either. Snakes might not be able to get their teeth into the spine-covered parts of the animals, but a bite to the face or legs could indeed be fatal to them. And maybe you didn’t know this, but in Mallorca, we do have venomous snakes. Click here to read more about it.
What Do They Eat? #
One thing is for sure: hedgehogs are not picky when it comes to their diet, eating anything from insects, slugs, baby mice, frogs, fish, worms, small snakes, eggs, and even fruit. If you spot one of the spiky little fellows in your garden on a regular basis, or even a female with a trail of little ones on her heels, you have two options to help enrich their diet:
- Consider creating a leafy or grassy area, perhaps by making a pile of old cuttings from mowing the lawn, leaves or moss, where bugs are sure to be present - perfect for a hedgehog feast!
- If you feel they need a little more ‘fattening up,’ then any tin of cat or dog food that is NOT fish-based is ok and doesn’t need to be posh. This will be gratefully received by your prickly guests. Plus, make sure to have fresh water in a shallow bowl for them. If you have a garden with many hedgehog guests, a wildlife supplier can help you source good supplemental food for them.
- Remember: if you spray for the caterpillars, the poison could contaminate the soils and kill other food for birds and hedgehogs.
How Do They Raise Their Families? #
Hedgehog young, known as ‘urchins’, are born to their mother after a 35-day pregnancy. Ordinarily, each litter will have 4-6 babies, but can count up to 10. The young will be raised within a maternity nest for up to 8 weeks, until they are deemed to be independent.
Urchins found outside the nest before their 8-week ‘induction period’ is up, will be distressed and at risk. If they happen to lose their way, they will make a high pitched ‘squeal’ in order to attract their mothers’ attention.
If you accidentally uncover a nest of urchins, it is vital that you do not move it or tamper with it. Mothers will return when they have finished hunting for food, but too much human interaction will lessen the trace of her scent and make it difficult for her to locate her family.
Hibernation in Mallorca #
All hedgehogs across the world will hibernate, and usually this will begin in late December or early January and continue until late March. Although these are generic timings that apply to the majority, there are a few anomalies which can affect hedgehogs here on our island.
Underweight hedgehogs will not survive hibernation during the winter and therefore must stay indoors until April time, within a controlled temperature of 18 degrees. If you do find yourself housing a hedgehog, make sure they are in an enclosure that allows them plenty of room for movement.
Hedgehogs need to build up their muscles and foraging skills, so moving their food and water away from their bed encourages both of these things. Please note that they will be more active at night, so if you are allowing them to venture into an outdoor enclosure, please let them out after sunset!
8 Facts About Hedgehogs You Should Know
Hedgehogs live in rural areas on the island. Unless injured, please let them have free-range to come and go in your garden.
How You Can Help #
Although fiercely independent and thankfully not endangered, that doesn’t mean to say that our hedgehogs couldn’t do with a helping hand.
In terms of making your garden a hedgehog friendly haven, ensure you have plenty of leafy areas where they can snuffle and forage for food. Each day hedgehogs will require fresh water, and a bowl of cat or dog food will never go amiss!
If you find an injured hedgehog, ensure you hold it with gardening gloves, and wrap in a towel, both to protect yourself from the spines, and protect the hedgehog from injury.
There are several ‘don’ts’ when it comes to hedgehog care, and to observe them is extremely important:
- Don’t use pesticides or slug repellent in the garden, they are toxic and fatal to hedgehogs
- Don’t leave bin liners lying about - hedgehogs could suffocate
- Don’t put out bread or milk- they are not part of a healthy diet.
- Don’t spray hedgehogs with dog or cat flea treatment - hedgehog fleas are of a completely different kind, and the anti-flea products used for our feline and canine friends will be fatal to hedgehogs!
Keep Your Distance #
Overall, hedgehogs are quite capable of managing on their own and prefer to be observed from afar and fed in the dead of the night. The best way to treat them is to simply admire them from a distance and be on hand to help when needed.
www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk/hedg... #nature #garden #wildlife #hibernation
By Zoé Holmes
3 March, 2020